Friday, 7 July 2017

Making Progress

I have just completed my mid year assessments and I am reflecting on what has supported my learners this term. To support my own observations and data, I have sent surveys to my learners to discover what they have found most helpful in each of their lessons.

1. Student Agency and Workshops
As part of my dissertation, I have been using a workshop approach to teaching maths a few times a week. My learners select which workshop(s) they need to attend and choose the activity aimed at their level. To support the learners when they are not with me, I have provided videos portraying the content that was covered in the workshop and materials. I have found that the students have been able to select the correct workshop and activity for their level.  They noted that the small group environment, materials and time with the teacher were very helpful.

The students also have two problem solving lessons a week which I facilitate but let the students take the lead on. This means that we have a balance of teacher led and learner led maths lessons, which the students also found helpful.

2. Reciprocal Reading
This has been a huge hit with the learners and they can now run this with little teacher intervention. It is great to see them holding debates and discussion about the texts and trying to challenge each other with the questions that they are asking.

3. Fluent Reading
I noted that some of my less capable readers were not able to read fluently, so we made this a focus and we used Screencastify to record them reading aloud with expression. This was particularly beneficial for the students on the colour wheel, who have become far more fluent readers. Thanks to Clarelle who is working on this intervention for her dissertation.

4. Meaningful Experiences

I have tried to create as many language experiences as possible this term, which has been very beneficial to the students writing. However, it has also been wonderful to see the students apply their learning in real life or different contexts. For example, using our fractions and measurement knowledge in our class cooking lesson. I found that the students can consolidate and deepen their understanding of concepts this way. This was particularly apparent when we constructed Pompeii and I listened to conversations about the different parts of the volcano that they were creating and which Roman God their temple would be associated with.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Te Reo Māori

As someone who completed the majority of their schooling overseas, I cannot say I experienced any Te Reo Māori lessons when I was at school. As such, when I began teaching last year I was a little unsure of how much Te Reo is usually taught and how these lessons are structured. Naturally, there is a lot of variation between courses and different ideas of how best to support the development of the language. Fortunately, I was able to experience Te Reo lessons first hand as I enrolled in two different courses as a student.
                                                    Learning about the colours

While I was a student at Auckland University, I took a linguistics paper in Te Reo Māori which helped me to develop an understanding of the structure of the language and supported me to build a basic vocabulary. As I still struggled with pronunciation and wanted to learn more about Tikanga, I enrolled in a course at UNITEC. This course was free and I would urge other educators to enrol, as I found it hugely beneficial. We went through the basics of the language, but looked at pronunciation,  tikanga and kapa haka.  The tutors in this course were wonderful; the activities that they provided were engaging and we all came a long way in a short space of time.

                                                                                                               Our Matariki Video
I now use a combination of " Ka Mau te Wehi!" which is the programme followed by my school and the lessons from my Kura Po classes at UNITEC. I have found that my students are just as engaged in the activities from my classes as I was and I can tell that much learning is occurring in these lessons.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Encouraging Collaboration and Problem Solving

This term I have sought to facilitate discussion between my learners and to step out of group lessons so that they are student led. I have utilized strategies such as reciprocal reading, maths as problem solving and circle time to encourage this. I have also highlighted the importance to work with others during our class PB4L lessons.
Team Building Sport Games

Within these PB4L lessons, I have facilitated a number of activities to foster team building. We played team building sports games, technology challenges and the famous toothpaste activity. One of the most engaging and successful activities that the class has participated in has been Breakout Edu.

A PB4L Challenge

The students were respectful, supportive, collaborative and engaged throughout the game, which was very rewarding to observe. Part of this success could be due to the amount of focus that we have put into team building in the past, but the Breakout had my students captivated and they have requested that we complete another game as soon as possible.

Our first Breakout was simple as the context of the game was designed for younger primary school students. However, as this was their first experience with the game, I felt it was important that they learnt a little more about it before the challenge is increased. The students have suggested that I facilitate a slightly trickier game at the end of term, which I am already looking forward to.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Building Experiences

This year I have learnt the value of providing rich experiences for my students, particularly as prompts for writing.  As the year has progressed, I have noticed that my students are asking to learn about a more diverse range of topics, from learning languages to learning about ancient history.

Over the past four weeks we have travelled to a farm and learnt about how farmers run their businesses, shear sheep and herd cattle. We have learnt to make scrambled eggs, dioramas, models and to play hockey. We have also learnt a little about Etymology and had a sign language lesson with a tutor from Deaf Aotearoa.

Learning to sign this week

From these experiences I have seen my students vocabulary increase and they have been able to create very rich pieces of writing. I have found the true value of language experiences and intend to utilise these to support my year six students in particular, as they are focussing on the recount genre this year.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Integrated Inquiry Approach

For the first part of the term,  our inquiry topic has been focussed on animals and being a responsible pet owner. I integrated maths, reading, writing, inquiry, technology and art as to maximise the amount of learning that could occur in the short time that we were given.

I was amazed by how much content we covered and how much the students learnt. My reading books aligned directly with the inquiry science lessons, where we investigated classification, adaptation and the food chain. I ensured that my students were engaging with multimodal text types each week and that we read a few texts that covered the topic in depth. I found that these reading lessons were very successful; the students made connections between their prior knowledge/ learning and between the texts.This aligned with a wide and deep reading approach, which Glenbrae and other Manaiakalani schools are focusing on at the moment.


In writing we investigated and wrote about responsible pet care, writing reports and letters about this. While we worked on addition and subtraction questions around buying items for our pets and visiting the vets in maths. The students were given technological challenges to create items that would support farmers and as a create activity for writing, my year six students created dioramas to illustrate the different environments that pets live in.

Creating dioramas to illustrate an animals habitat.

We are now looking at some of the big issues around animals, such as factory farming and animal testing, as part of our personal lines of inquiry and class sessions. These are promoting great discussion and debate. The students will be responding to these issues this week through poetry, to end our inquiry.

Overall, I feel I have learnt a lot from teaching this unit. This is the first time I have attempted to integrate as many subjects and it is something that I will definitely be doing again.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Reflecting on my first term!

I have done so much learning this term and can already think of so much I would change or do differently when I enter the first term next year. However, it has been a pretty successful first term and I have really enjoyed my time with the children.

I have found that our inquiry lessons have been pretty successful this term. The children were interested in the topic of global warming and the environment and we covered a lot of content by integrating reading, writing, health and social studies. We also created  and shared art that illustrated our view on environmental issues and I was impressed by the ideas that the students had and their creativity.

I have seen a lot of success in reading in particular, as my students have been able to meet the learning intention and create some wonderful DLOs in response to the text that they have read. I can tell that the students have been engaged, as they have consistently met deadlines, completed reading tasks at home and have frequently blogged about. 

In writing the majority of my class have consistently met the learning intentions and we have completed some fun activities. While I found strategies to support some of my reluctant writers faster than others, I was able to create some engaging writing activities at the end of the term that I hope to develop in term 2. 

While I have struggled in maths (check out my blog post here) I have come a long way in this area and I have definitely learnt some new strategies.

I'm really excited to apply this learning next term and to continue to develop as an educator!

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Maths Mayhem?

Teaching maths has been the largest challenge I have faced this term. I attempted to follow the problem solving approach, teaching half class mixed ability problem solving lessons 4 times a week, with one workshop. This had been an approach that we were taught through professional development last year and my school sought to continue. After struggling with this for the first seven weeks, I sent out a survey to determine what the students thought of our maths lessons. It was clear from the responses that the majority of students were unhappy. Some said that the problems were too easy, while others said that they were really struggling. I was having more behavioural problems in maths than in any other subject because of these emotional responses.

 I then tried to offer more materials to my learners who were struggling and to run a longer warm up at the start of the session to explain the concept to them. This helped them a little but they lost engagement by the end of the maths lesson. I also tried to do something similar for the high achieving students but in the end I really rushed through the lessons, conscious that this was surplus to the 'main' lesson that I was running that day. 

This was pretty amusing as I am about to start research looking at how teachers can differentiate their maths lessons in a mixed ability class. I was feeling pretty concerned, and I could even match my mistakes to those documented in the literature. However, the research inspired me to make a change, so I began to offer three workshops and got the students to opt in to at least one of them. This meant that I had enough time to cover the content at different levels of difficulty. Similarly, I  create different digital independent tasks and allow the students to choose which to use.

I run these workshops at the start of the week and ensure that they cover the concepts that the students will require to tackle the problem. I have also ensured that I have used open ended problems as much as possible, so that the students can alter the difficulty of the problem themselves. If I have to use set numbers in the problem, I will include the option to alter the numbers so that they are larger or smaller.